Virtually all of WSU's team statistics have taken a hit in league games. Most individuals have also seen their numbers drop, most noticeably Klay Thompson.
The sweet jumper of WSU's sophomore guard has turned sour of late. He still leads the Pac-10 with 22.3 points per game, but he's scoring 18.3 in league after averaging 25 in non-conference games.
Thompson has hit just 25 percent of his 3-pointers (14 of 56) in eight Pac-10 games after nailing 45 percent (33 of 74) in 12 non-league contests. His overall shooting percentage is 48 percent in non-league and 39 percent in league.
Thompson was wide open on several shots he missed Saturday at UCLA. However, Reggie Moore said, "We've got to help him out and set better screens."
Perhaps, but Moore is doing quite well while creating shots on his own for the most part. The freshman point guard averages 17 points in Pac-10 games after coming into league play with a 12.6 average.
THE OTHER COUGAR regulars with higher scoring averages in Pac-10 games than non-conference action are reserve swingman Nikola Koprivica (9.8 - 8.3) and starting guard Marcus Capers (7.2 - 6.8).
Starting forward Abe Lodwick has scored just six points (a pair of 3-pointers) in Pac-10 action. Starting post DeAngelo Casto has scored 8.8 ppg since coming into the conference season at 10.8.
The 6-foot-8, 241-pound Casto, a sophomore who often goes up against bigger and/or more experienced players, has increased his rebounding average slightly since league play began. He's grabbing 7.5 boards a game in the Pac-10, and his overall rebounding average of 7.4 ranks fifth in the league.
THE YOUNG, UNDERSIZED Cougars rank a surprising third in rebounding in league games at 34.6, and they're second in blocked shots at 4.6. Casto remains the overall league leader in blocks with a 2.1 average.
Offsetting those numbers are WSU's rank in league games in steals (10th, 4.0), points allowed (ninth, 74.8), 3-point field-goal percentage defense (ninth, 37.4), assists (eighth, 11.0), field-goal percentage defense (seventh, 45.1) and turnover margin (seventh, minus-1.0).
The Cougars scored 80.2 ppg (second) and shot 49.8 percent (first) from the field when they went 10-2 in non-conference games. WSU is 4-4 in Pac-10 play while averaging 74.5 ppg (fourth) and shooting 44.2 percent (fifth).
WASHINGTON STATE's drop-off in assists during league play may be the best indicator of a larger problem with the offense as a whole.
"We weren't patient enough," Moore said after the Cougars shot 36 percent in a 74-62 loss at UCLA. "Sometimes, when we're struggling, we're not patient enough."
"We didn't do a good job of getting the ball inside," Koprivica said.
Opponents have just 26 more points than WSU in league games (598-572), but rivals have 33 more assists (122-89).
Of course, everything runs smoother if Thompson, the nation's sixth-league scorer, is on his game. In addition to 5-for-17 shooting Saturday, Thompson had five turnovers.
"When he's making shots, it makes it easier on us," coach Ken Bone said.
Only Moore, who handles the ball far more, has a higher number of turnovers than Thompson in WSU's league games (26-24).
THE COUGARS, ONE of the most surprising teams on the West Coast because of their 14-6 record with a starting lineup that includes four sophomores and one freshman, face one of the more disappointing teams in the country Saturday.
The Washington Huskies are 12-1 at home, but 0-6 on the road. They were ranked as high as 12th earlier this season in the national polls.
Generally regarded as the Pac-10 co-favorites with California, the Huskies have lost two in a row and five of seven to lower their Pac-10 record to 3-5.
The Dawgs looked like dogs Saturday in an 87-61 loss to a USC team that bowed 67-60 to Washington State two nights earlier.
"They're just out there having fun," Husky guard Venoy Overton said of the Trojans. "That's how we've really got to start playing."
Washington scoring leader Quincy Pondexter certainly didn't look like he was having fun Saturday. The senior forward is ranked 28th among 2010 NBA draft prospects by ESPN.com (Thompson is 47th), but Pondexter scored two points on 1-for-10 shooting at USC. He averages 19.5 ppg.
THE COUGARS HAVE split two games every week of the Pac-10 season thus far. As usual, the Washington contest is WSU's only game of the week. (The Huskies play Seattle on Tuesday.)
Moore, a Seattle native who was recruited by Washington before they dropped him in favor of current starting point guard Abdul Gaddy (a freshman averaging 4.6 ppg), realizes that every game is crucial the rest of the way in the jam-packed Pac-10.
"I'm greedy for wins," Moore said after last week's split. "I want all of them."
WSU is seventh and Washington eighth in the Pac-10, but five teams are tied for second at 4-3, one game behind 5-2 California. The race is so tightly bunched that had WSU beaten UCLA, they would have sat in solo second place.
THE HUSKIES swept both games with WSU last year after losing the previous seven meetings.
The 12:30 p.m. contest at 10,000-seat Bank of America Arena figures to sell out, but a limited number of tickets were still available as of Monday afternoon (206-543-2200). FSN-NW televises the game.
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